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Agencies Actually Pay Attention to Most GAO Recommendations

Study shows 81 percent of recommendations have been executed over the past 26 years.

Reports and congressional testimony from the Government Accountability Office often note federal agencies’ failure to act on past recommendations. But a unique study using data analytics shows that agencies ultimately have acted on more than four-fifths of the recommendations from Congress’ top watchdog over the past quarter-century.

Deloitte Public Sector Research on Wednesday released the findings based on computer analysis of more than 40,000 GAO recommendations totaling 1.5 million pages in the audit agency’s reports going back 26 years.

Agencies had implemented 81 percent of the recommendations, Deloitte said, based on analysis of seven key questions. That is slightly higher than GAO’s own report of a 79 percent implementation rate, in its year-old study of fiscal 2013 reports. Nearly two-thirds of GAO reports contain recommendations.

Deloitte’s work is “one of the first deep analyses of government data using text analytics,” said William Eggers, director of public sector research at Deloitte Services LP. “It not only unearthed key insights that would be nearly impossible for the human eye to see, but it will help federal leaders improve the structures of their internal oversight activities to quantify accountability and drive results.”

Four topics stood out as most frequently implemented, Deloitte said: information security recommendations were implemented at a 91 percent rate while information technology, education, and equal opportunity recommendations were implemented at 87 percent each.  

“Over the past three decades the same four issue areas investigated by GAO remained consistent: auditing and financial management, government operations, justice and law enforcement and national defense,” Deloitte stated. “These top-line trends transcended party control and presidential management agendas.”

Deloitte observed that recommendations related to the Government Performance and Results Act, which was modernized in 2010, have had a success rate 2 percent higher than other recommendations.

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